Running up the stairs to the office might burn calories, but then you reach your meeting dripping in a pool of sweat. Instead, stick to stair-climber machines, which usually reside in a climate-controlled gym and offer a low-impact workout that you can vary to fit your needs. Whether you goal is losing weight, staying fit or building muscle in your lower body, trading the treadmill for the stair climber can give you the boost you need.
Warming up before your workout gets the blood racing to your muscles and helps prevent injury. It's just an extra five minutes, so take the time to do it right. The warm-up doesn't need to be complicated; walk briskly around the gym for a few minutes, jog in place or go ahead and climb on the stair machine. Set it at its lowest resistance level and move at a leisurely pace.
When you get to a comfortable yet challenging speed on the stair climber, keep it up for 45 to 60 minutes for maximum calorie burn. MayoClinic.com says a 160-pound person burns up to 657 calories per hour on a stair climber. The consistent speed and long duration help build your endurance while you work off last night's lasagna.
Interval workouts squeeze the calorie-burning power of a long-duration workout into a shorter time frame. Use interval training when you've become accustomed to the stair-climber machine and can exercise for at least 30 minutes at a time without becoming so out of breath that you can't carry on a conversation. The idea behind interval training is to give it your all for a short duration, then to spend a few minutes recovering. For example, go as fast as you can on the stair climber for 60 seconds, then resume a moderate pace for four to five minutes. Continue the intervals for 30 minutes, and increase them when you can, such as using two-minute intervals with three-minute recovery times.
Getting ready for that new miniskirt doesn't have to mean lifting weights. Most stair climbers allow you to change the resistance level, making it harder for your legs to push down the pedals. Working out to build muscle is different from trying to lose weight; keep the speed and duration less than a fat-burning cardio or interval workout. Turn up the resistance and get into a moderate rhythm on the stair climber, but don't try to win a race. You want your legs to stretch in a full range of motion with each step without your upper body bouncing or using your hands to help you push down. The increased resistance can cause your leg muscles to reach exhaustion quickly, so plan for a short duration, such as two sets of five minutes with at least one minute of recovery between the sets.